Fickleness of Fame

The gigantic photo of the anonymous youth first appeared on the Freshgrocer garage this past October. Then it moved to the front of Fisher-Bennett Hall. Now it’s gone again.

“The Casual Passer-By I Met at 3:01 pm, Philadelphia, April 9, 2007” is the latest in a long series of “Casual Passer-By” photos by Braco Dimitrijevic, a Paris-based conceptual artist who has been planting question marks in the minds of onlookers since 1971.

The casual passer-by in question is Michael Howard, a sophomore in the College who agreed to let Dimitrijevic take his photograph at the corner of 34th and Walnut streets, and signed a waiver allowing him to use it in an exhibition. Howard then forgot about the whole thing—until he saw the heroic-sized image of himself hanging from the Freshgrocer garage. He admitted to being a “little mortified” by his unexpected rendezvous with celebrity.

“I completely respect the artist and his work,” he was quoted as saying in The Daily Pennsylvanian. “It’s just strange when you’re the subject of the piece.”

“The vagaries of chance, the whims of history, and the fickleness of celebrity are all suggested by these anonymous yet iconic portraits,” notes Aaron Levy C’99 G’03, a lecturer in the English department as well as executive director and senior curator of the Slought Foundation. Levy and the undergraduate students in his RBSL Bergman Foundation Curatorial Seminar (offered by the English and art-history departments) organized the installation, whose philosophical underpinning was perhaps best summed up by Dimitrijevic in a 2005 interview: “What separates known from unknown is a thin line of convention.”—S.H.

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